Luna’s Living Kitchen Makes It Easy Being Green
A chalkboard above the little open kitchen at Luna’s Living Kitchen reads “We believe that Living Food is a labor of¬†love, that¬†health, beauty, &¬†art can be served on a plate.¬†We believe that sustainable food and using compostable products supports¬†SUSTAINABLE WELLNESS & A LONG-LASTING PLANET.” From the moment you walk into the restaurant, this mantra occupies your field of vision and sets you straight that you’re about to eat a meal with a purpose. A purpose to nourish the body with plant-based cuisine, stimulate the five senses, and promote mindfulness of the the bounty we reap when we act as stewards of the Earth.
An arrangement of irises, tangerine roses, and zinnias draw the eyes toward bowls filled with tender avocados, fat tomatoes, and knuckled garlic bulbs. Ripe apples, oranges, lemons, and limes hang from the ceiling in wire baskets. The fruits along with mounds of cruciferous veggies and vibrant veggies are ready and waiting for a squeeze in the cold press juicer. The space is minimalistic and clean and almost feels reverent. Setting is limited to a handful or two of four tops, a couple high tops. If you want to grab a juice and go, there is a stocked cooler off to the side of the register. Beneath the counter which separates the open kitchen from the guests, a painted mural depicts a starry nightscape of a tree and moon going through their phases. It reaffirms the mantra above the kitchen and reminds patrons that humanity’s lifecycle is directly correlated to the seasons, our position in space, and whatever other undiscovered forces connect us to the universe and planet. It becomes clear and clearer every year that we are all in this together and if we take care of the Earth, it will provide for us in abundance.
Luna’s specializes in organic, plant-based cuisine along with cold pressed juices, smoothies, and raw milks. They source the entire menu from local farmers and environmentally-consious purveyors of oils, nuts, and fruits. I imagine the daily farmers’ market in the building beside Luna’s helps keep the larders stocked with the freshest produce. Within the past five to six years, the demand for organic products and access to regional farmers and seasonal produce has put local, sustainable ingredients within easy reach of Charlotte’s chefs. It seems more often than not these days you see heirloom vegetables or locally-grown greens on a menu. Let’s hope the trend continues and we see more and more ingredients restaurants need grown, harvested, or produced here in North Carolina.¬†
In my opinion, what really distinguishes Luna’s from other cafes serving salads and juices is the quality of ingredients and artful presentation of the entrees.¬†The bright colors and shapes of the plant-based menu entice the eyes and trigger some primal knowledge that the food on your plate is delicious and nourishing. Edible plants grow in colors and shapes that we find pleasant and attractive as humans. This isn’t by mistake. Luna’s takes these familiar colors and ingredient and supercharges them into hearty breakfasts, nutrient packed salads and entrees, veggie burgers, and gluten-free, vegan desserts.
To create the Lunasagna, the chefs layer crisp, wafer-thin zucchini slices over a base of tangy sun-dried tomato sauce and finely-chopped mushrooms. The dish replaces the ricotta or mozzarella cheese in traditional lasagna with a smooth spread ¬†of vegan cashew-basil “cheese.” The creamy texture and strong tomato flavor were as savory as the lasagna served in an Italian restaurant. A local salad accompanies the Lunasagna and consists of fresh spinach, red lettuce, sprouts, and sweet potato ribbons drizzled with a tahini hemp dressing and a scoop of flavorful, grated Brazil nut “parmesan”.
There is no such thing as too many veggies in your diet. Luna’s makes it easy and enjoyable to treat your body right and help local and eco-conscious farmers. The cold pressed juices and raw food at this South End standout restaurant are so flavorful the most hardcore carnivores won’t miss the meat.¬†If you’ve never tried a restaurant with an organic, plant-focused menu, Luna’s is a great place to start.
Do you have a favorite order at Luna’s? Where else should we go for organic, plant-based food?